Michelle & Larycia: Two Remarkable Women Speak

Michelle & Larycia: Two Remarkable Women Speak


The New York Times Magazine has a very striking & powerful profile of Larycia Hawkins, the former tenured professor at evangelical Wheaton College in Illinois. She was abruptly fired last year after publicly wearing a hijab “in solidarity” with Muslims facing Islamophobia.
For the record, she wasn’t converting to Islam, but this gesture of “solidarity,” especially by an articulate black woman intellectual was way too much for both Wheaton’s white male rulers & its mostly white constituency.

The uproar that led to her firing was what we call a total flustercluck, which surfaced so many ugly currents that swirl through the evangelical constituency that the oppression bean counters had to scramble to keep up: there was race (of course), but also gender (& single too, i.e., not under a man’s “headship”,  and — dare I say it — attractive); she’s also an accomplished intellectual; staunchly Christian, yet theologically adventurous; well-spoken, vocal and assertive.

Larycia Hawkins, with hijab.

“Wheaton College cannot scare me into walking away from the truth that all humans, Muslims, the vulnerable, the oppressed … are all my sisters and brothers and I am called by Jesus to walk with them.”

“Our love for Jesus compels us to make no peace with oppression. That drove my solidarity with women in the hijab, particularly Muslims in hijab, because you know Jesus’ mother, Mary, wore a hijab, too.”

— Larycia Hawkins, December 2015

The combination was clearly explosive, and her ouster left Wheaton looking rightly hypocritical and disgraced — disgraced in a way that deepens every day of this sorry, sordid election year.

Hawkins emerged bruised but unbroken, integrity intact, head high, and I predict career prospects bright.

What a story.

“A woman on a spiritual journey is who I am, a journey that for me has always pointed to Jesus. Throughout my years of service at Wheaton College, I have never wavered from my commitment to the Christian doctrines elucidated in this statement of faith.”

— Larycia Hawkins

“As they participate in various causes, it is essential that faculty and staff engage and speak about public issues in ways that faithfully represent the college’s evangelical Statement of Faith,” college officials said in a written statement.

More about Larycia Hawkins here.

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Michelle Obama spoke today (10-13-2016) in New Hampshire, and her speech will, I believe, go down as a landmark of humanist political rhetoric. She was angry, she was eloquent, she was  unanswerable & unstoppable, and the crowd (sounded like students) went totally bonkers.

Yes, it was a campaign speech. But I’ve left out the parts that urge her listeners to vote for a particular candidate; because that’s not what I want to highlight here.

I want to pass on the heart of the speech, a woman speaking to other women, and men, about the issues that have leapt to the fore in the past few days.  You know what they are. But she says it best:


“I’m going to get a little serious here, because I think we can all agree that this has been a rough week in an already rough election. This week has been particularly interesting for me personally because it has been a week of profound contrast.

See, on Tuesday at the White House we celebrated the International Day of the Girl and Let Girls Learn and it was a wonderful celebration. It was the last event that I’m going to be doing as first lady for Let Girls Learn and I had the pleasure of spending hours talking to some of the most amazing young women you will ever meet — young girls here in the U.S. and all around the world. And we talked about their hopes and their dreams. We talked about their aspirations. . . .

That was Tuesday. And now here I am out on the campaign trail in an election where we have consistently been hearing hurtful, hateful language about women. Language that has been painful for so many of us, not just as women, but as parents trying to protect our children and raise them to be caring, respectful adults, and as citizens who think our nation’s leaders should meet basic standards of human decency. 

The fact is that, in this election, we have a candidate for president of the United States who over the course of his lifetime, and the course of this campaign, has said things about women that are so shocking, so demeaning that I simply will not repeat anything here today. 

And last week, we saw this candidate actually bragging about sexually assaulting women. I can’t believe that I’m saying that a candidate for president of the United States has bragged about sexually assaulting women. And I have to tell you that I can’t stop thinking about this. It has shaken me to my core in a way that I couldn’t have predicted.

So, while I’d love nothing more than to pretend like this isn’t happening and come out here and do my normal campaign speech, it would be dishonest and disingenuous to me to just move on to the next thing like this was all just a bad dream. This is not something that we can ignore. This is not something that we can sweep under the rug as just another disturbing footnote in a sad election season because this was not just a lewd conversation. 

This wasn’t just locker room banter. This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior. And actually bragging about kissing and groping women using language so obscene that many of us worried about our children hearing it when we turned on the TV. And to make matters worse it now seems very clear that this isn’t an isolated incident. It’s one of countless examples of how he has treated women his whole life.

And I have to tell you that I listen to all of this, and I feel it so personally. And I’m sure that many of you do, too, particularly the women. The shameful comments about our bodies. The disrespect of our ambitions and intellect. The belief that you can do anything you want to a woman. 

It is cruel. It’s frightening. And the truth is, it hurts. It hurts. It’s like that sick, sinking feeling you get when you’re walking down the street, minding your own business, and some guy yells out vulgar words about your body. Or when you see that guy at work that stands just a little too close, stares a little too long, and makes you feel uncomfortable in your own skin. 

It’s that feeling of terror and violation that too many women have felt when someone has grabbed them or forced himself on them, and they’ve said no, but he didn’t listen. Something that we know happens on college campuses and countless other places every single day. 

It reminds us of stories we’ve heard from our mothers and grandmothers about how back in their day the boss could say and do whatever he pleased to the women in the office. And even though they worked so hard, jumped over every hurdle to prove themselves, it was never enough. We thought all of that was ancient history, didn’t we?

And so many have worked for so many years to end this kind of violence and abuse and disrespect but here we are. In 2016 and we’re hearing these exact same things every day of the campaign trail. We are drowning in it. 

And all of us are doing what women have always done. We’re trying to keep our heads above water. Just trying to get through it, trying to pretend like this doesn’t really bother us. 

Maybe because we think that admitting how much it hurts makes us as women look weak. Maybe we’re afraid to be that vulnerable. Maybe we’ve grown accustomed to swallowing these emotions and staying quiet because we’ve seen that people often won’t take our word over his. 

Or maybe we don’t want to believe that there are still people out there who think so little of us as women. Too many are treating this as just another day’s headline. As if our outrage is overblown or unwarranted. As if this is normal. Just politics as usual.

But New Hampshire, be clear; this is not normal. This is not politics as usual. 

This is disgraceful. It is intolerable and it doesn’t matter what party you belong to — Democrat, Republican, Independent — no woman deserves to be treated this way. None of us deserve this kind of abuse. 

And I know it’s a campaign, but this isn’t about politics. It’s about basic human decency. It’s about right and wrong and we simply cannot endure this or expose our children to this any longer. 

Not for another minute, let alone for four years. Now is the time for all of us to stand up and say ‘enough is enough.’

This has got to stop right now because consider this: If all of this is painful to us as grown women, what do you think this is doing to our children? What messages are little girls hearing about who they should look like, how they should act? What lessons are they learning about their value as professionals, as human beings? About their dreams and aspirations? 

And how is this affecting men and boys in this country because I can tell you that the men in my life do not talk about women like this and I know that my family is not unusual. And to dismiss this as everyday locker room talk is an insult to decent men everywhere. 

The men that you and I know don’t treat women this way, they are loving fathers who are sickened by the thought of their daughters being exposed to this kind of vicious language about women. They are husbands and brothers and sons who don’t tolerate women being treated and demeaned and disrespected. And, like us, these men are worried about the impact this election is having on our boys who are looking for role models for what it means to be a man. . . .

 A 6-year-old knows that this is not how adults behave, this is not how decent human beings behave, and this is certainly not how someone who wants to be president of the United States behaves.

Because let’s be very clear, strong men, strong men, men who are truly role models don’t need to put down women to make themselves feel powerful. People who are truly strong lift others up. People who are truly powerful bring others together and that is what we need in our next president. We need someone who is a uniting force in this country. . . .”

The full transcript of Michelle’s speech is here.

One thought on “Michelle & Larycia: Two Remarkable Women Speak”

  1. Hey Chuck, you need a Tweet button on your blog. 🙂

    Great post: nice to hear strong, virtuous voices as a relief from the current political discourse.


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